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The western sanctions, including the recent European Union [EU] sanctions targeting the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, and even his brother Maher al-Assad, were insufficient. The EU therefore took the decision to impose other sanctions on the women of the al-Assad family, including Bashar al-Assad’s mother, sister and wife. This represents a striking decision, for what does the imposition of these sanctions truly mean? What follows on from this?

It is clear that the latest European sanctions indicate that the international community – including Europe – has now decided, or shall we say admitted, that the problem in Syria today is not a tribe or a sect, but rather a single family, namely the al-Assad family, both men and women. Therefore the EU has taken the decision to target the al-Assad family women with sanctions, effectively pinning a target on this family and making it an objective for anybody who wants to topple the al-Assad regime, particularly the military. The EU targeting the al-Assad family – and its women – in this manner is an implicit indication that the international community would give its blessings to a military coup taking place in Syria.

The sanctioning of the al-Assad family means that Europe and the international community is differentiating between the al-Assad family and the [Alawite] sect, as well between the family and Syrian army officers. These sanctions represent a clear message to Syrian army officers, as much as they aim to suppress or intimidate the al-Assad family. This message is: take action, and we will give you our blessing, because we differentiate between you and the al-Assad family. This is a message to all those capable of taking action within the Syrian army, whether members of the Alawite sect or others; the important thing is that Europe is trying to tell Syria’s military officers that it distinguishes between them and the al-Assad family. The irony is that the al-Assad family, which is the true ruler of Syria – politically and economically – has never sought the spotlight, even though it is in control of the source of this light; however it today finds itself in the eye of the storm, in an unprecedented manner. The al-Assad family is the true ruler and governor of Syria – as we mentioned before – not the Baathist party or anybody else; Syria is ruled by the al-Assad family council, and the women have a prestigious position in this. This is something that the Europeans have become aware of, and they have therefore taken action to even sanction the women of this family.

These sanctions will, of course, have a significant material impact; for the issue is not targeting a tribe or sect, but rather targeting a single family, which is something that should be clear for all Syrians – not to mention Syrian army officers – to see. Therefore the question that must be asked today is: who is prepared to sacrifice themselves for a single family? The story here is not about a country or regime or even tribe or sect, but rather the story of a single family. The European sanctions today are like a target used for archery practice, so the question is: who will hit the bull’s-eye – namely the al-Assad family – in order to save themselves, and Syria as a whole?

Simply speaking, the European sanctions mean that either you are with al-Assad or you are with Syria; therefore these sanctions have even targeted the al-Assad family women. This is a message that will be best received and understood by the soldier of the al-Assad regime; therefore there can be no doubt that the European sanctions represent a genuine and effective threat to the al-Assad regime.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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